Ocean and Ice

So!  Steve and I took a vacation.

I place all blame for this on the Cirque du Soleil, which, back in the waning winter, sent me notice that Crystal would be at the Cross Insurance Arena in our very own Portland, Maine, in August.  I, of course, immediately told asked Steve we were going if he and I could make a date for the show, and he agreed.

There remained the small difficulty of Portland being between 90 and 120 minutes from the New Cat Farm and Confusion Factory, and we kicked around the notion of taking a hotel room in Portland, which was not an. . .unattractive notion, Portland having more restaurants per square foot than any other city I’ve been in, plus, yanno, shopping.

However, it also, slowly, became obvious to us that Old Orchard Beach — which has the Atlantic Ocean, classic rock, an amusement park, ice cream, silly beach shops, the Atlantic Ocean — is only a fifteen minute drive from the Cross Arena in Portland, and so we cannily took a room at OOB, not for one night, but for four.

We drove down Tuesday for an afternoon check-in at a sorta newish place for us — The Waves (“sorta newish” because The Waves is the big sister property to the Sea View, where, back when my first Carousel* book released, I had rented a room block for the release party, so we knew management, but not the property).  Our room was second floor, ocean-side.  It was, in fact, 55 paces to the beach (according to Steve, who Measures Things). The porch overlooked everything — dunes, sea roses, surf, the Thursday night fireworks display.  I spent hours on the porch, breathing sea air, reading, playing with binoculars — just, yanno, doing nothing.  So very fine not to have to do anything.  For a few days, anyway.  By the time we were getting packed up, I was getting a little antsy with the whole “rest” thing.

I took my laptop, because — writer.  But I did not open my laptop.  I did not Facebook.  I did not Twitter.  I did not email.  I took no pictures.  I took no prisoners.  I think I told one guy, in response to a direct question, what it was I did for a living.  It was glorious.  I did, as above, sit on the porch and read; take naps; walk up and down the town and the beach; visited Googin Rock; ate every meal for four days out; also ‘way too much ice cream; played arcade games; talked to Steve about things that were not business or writing (well, OK, we did start to plot a short story, and — full disclosure — I started to play around with the idea for a new Carousel story, if I should manage to get time to write a new Carousel story).

Life at the ocean over our four-day stay was interesting.  We had a number of thunderstorms, including one that produced a horizontal rainbow about a foot off of the surface of the waves, which was really interesting.  Friday night’s storm caught us in the amusement park.  We retreated to the arcade before the heavy lightning and thunder hit, and had just taken up a position beside a row of games when — FLASH! BOOM! — and all the lights in the arcade went out.

There was time for a group intake of breath, and for one child to say, on a rising note “Mah-OHM?” — before the lights came back on and the young lady playing the Terminator machine across from us cussed because she’d lost her best score.

The park was closed for a little while until it was clear that the storm had moved on.  We walked among the rides, saying hello and good-bye, and retired to our room and the so-very-excellent porch.

Yesterday, we regretfully packed out, and drove home the long way, through Oxford, Paris, Milford, Mexico. . .stopping on the way through Waterville to pick up Chinese for lunch at home with the cats.

The cats, for those who are curious about how our cats “punish” us for abandoning them — the cats were all four waiting for us in the hall at the top of the stairs to the basement.  Trooper was a little forward of the ladies, and he greeted me first, to be sure I was who I said I was.  Then Belle stepped forward, then Scrabble, then Sprite.

The formalities attended to, they proceeded to beg for Chinese.

After lunch, we unpacked in a leisurely manner, and met for a glass of wine and to read out loud, in the living room, in the early evening.

We’re working our way through the Cat Who/Qwilleran cozies, the book we’re reading now is The Cat Who Went Into the Closet.

I sat down in my corner of the couch, and put the leg-rest out (the right and left seats of the couch recline).  We each had a glass of red wine to hand.  Belle came to sit on my lap; Sprite jumped up onto the Mencken table, where I had carelessly left the Scrabble set (in the box).

Everybody settled, Steve began to read.

Belle fell into a doze on my lap.  Steve leaned forward to pick up his wine, settled back, rustled the pages of the book, Sprite startled, kicked, knocked the Scrabble box off of the table to a crash landing on the floor, Sprite fled, Belle rocketed out of my lap, through Steve, knocking his arm up, so that he was showered in red wine.

There was a twenty-minute recess while clean-up happened, and Steve changed his clothes.

The book — a book club edition, with those thin, gritty pages, dried quickly enough for us to continue reading, Steve’s wine glass refilled.

We were lucky in the arc of wine:  Most of it went on Steve (granted, he doesn’t particularly think this was lucky); some landed on the stain-proofed, dark-brown-tweed sofa; a fair amount splashed one of the pillows, which I count a win, because I never liked those pillows and now I have an excuse to replace them.  A small amount of wine hit the floor, and was handily mopped up.  None touched what I like to call my Good Wool Rug.  The Scrabble set was in the box, the box was sealed with ribbon, thus no escaping tiles.

So, as catsasters go, it could have been much worse.  I have a bruise on my thigh where Belle took off, and Steve’s clothes may not be completely recoverable.  On the other hand, they were beach clothes, so a minor loss at worst.

Today, I’m clearly on the computer.  I’ve already ordered Earth Logic, Water Logic, and Air Logic (the follows to Fire Logic, which I finished reading at the ocean), and I’m shopping on Redbubble for some laptop stickers.  I also need to pull out information about a minor character appearing in . . .Lance, who will be the star of the story we need to write for Baen.com, and frowning at the notes I left for myself in re the WIP

Yes, and I’ve also opened my email; if I owe you an email — waiting is.

Lunch, I believe, will be leftover Chinese, and that will be the official end of the vacation.  It was terrific, and I’d do it again tomorrow, but — deadline.

And so it goes.

Speaking of deadlines, we still do have book deadlines in our future.  This is what our professional life looks like, as of right now:

Accepting the Lance finishes the contract we called here in-house The Five Book Dash.  It will be published in December.  Believe it or not, that’s Realsoonnow.

While we were working on The Five Book Dash, Baen offered us a contract for two additional Liaden books, the so-called Mask Books (because we had not made proposals, and knew nothing, other than we could write two more Liaden books, and thus Baen would be purchasing a couple of pigs in the poke, or — more elegantly — Liadens in masks.)

A little while after that, Baen offered another contract, for three Liaden books, the so-called Triple Threat.

We are, therefore, still under contract for five Liaden books.

The novel I am working on right now will fulfill the first half of the Mask contract.

Steve is working on a Jethri novel, which will fulfill the second half of the Mask contract.

That will leave the entire Triple Threat to be written.

So — yes there are Liaden books in your future.

No, there are no Carousel/Archers Beach books in your immediate future.

There are no Gem ser’Edreth books in your future.

There are no Jen Pierce mysteries in your future.

Everybody confused now?


Imma answering my email now.

*Carousel novels by Sharon Lee:  Carousel Tides, Carousel Sun, Carousel Seas
Carousel short stories by Sharon Lee:  Surfside, The Gift of Magic, Spell Bound

In which there is ketchup

So, we went to Boskone, and it was fun.

I had my doubts, as we drove out last Thursday morning, to catch the Downeaster to Boston.  It had snowed on the overnight, and the Amtrak lot at Brunswick is uncovered, as are most of the parking lots in Maine. Honestly, you’d think it never snowed here.

Still, it had snowed, and I had visions of us having to shovel out a parking space, if, in fact, the lot was open at all.

Now, this?  Is the upside of being a pessimist.  We get so many more nice surprises than optimists.  For instance — yes the lot was both full of snow and full of cars, but!  there were two spaces available, and a front-loader on the case clearing the snow.  The nice operator dug out one of the two available spots for us, leaving us fresh for a small tussle with the “automatic parking meter,”  which, given the snow and the temperature, and all, was a little less automatic than one might wish.  Eventually, however, Victory Was Ours, and we rolled our suitcases down to the actual train station, and boarded in good order.

We arrived in Boston to find that — surprise! — North Station was undergoing construction and the Taxi Feeding Grounds from which we have for many years claimed our ride across town was — unavailable.  In fact, there were no taxis to be seen.

Finally, we walked up Portland Street, to the Kimpton Onyx Hotel, which had done us a good turn once before, and asked the nice person on the front desk to call us a cab, which she very kindly did, and we were on our way.

Boskone was lovely.  We saw a lot of people we hadn’t seen in years, what with one thing and another; had a delightful Friends of Liad breakfast, and several stimulating panels.  We signed books; I lost my voice, and on Monday morning, in the teeth of a very pretty little snow that did very little violence to the Traffic of Boston, given that it was a holiday, we were returned to North Station, where a nice Transit Authority Person was able to give us succinct and accurate directions to Amtrak, and so to Brunswick, and thence to Waterville, where we were very glad to see the cats, and vice versa.

We had a celebratory Home Again pizza, as is our habit, and a good night’s sleep.  This morning, we slept in, and, now that my hair is dry, I will be going out to the grocery store.  After lunch, I will delve into The Taxes, and Steve will be hitting the galleys for Liaden Universe® Constellation Volume Four.

So, yanno:  Back to normal, until next Thursday, when Steve will be reporting to the Cardiac Unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center to have his generator replaced.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that today is Belle’s ninth birthday, which she is celebrating by sleeping in the sun, stretched full length on the cedar chest.

. . .and that?  Catches us all up.

Here, have a picture from the con.

Coon Cat Logic

Those of you who have been following along for a while, hereanthere, will possibly recall that I amuse myself from time to time telling stories about the cats, their behavior, their possible motives, and their Catly Powers. Mostly, this is whimsy, but occasionally the cats step up and prove that Real Life is stranger than whimsy.

As for instance, last night/very early today.

I have not, for various reasons been sleeping particularly well. The cats have really been throwing their weight behind the whole night-time comfort thing; it’s been rare, indeed, lately to wake out of a bad dream to find that I have less than two Coon cats holding me down. Often, all three are present.

This morning/last night, I had been asleep, and I was having a very. . .tense. . .dream, from which I was roused when Belle, who had been sleeping on my feet, strolled up to my pillow and began to knead and purr.

Now. . .in the Normal Way of Things, Belle is my go-to put-me-to-sleep expert. She just has Awesome Skillz, which I attribute to her former career as Mom Cat and on-call Aunt.

This morning, however, she stopped in mid-knead, ceased purring, spoke to me rather peevishly (“Oh, for goodness’ sake; how did you get in there, you stupid kitten?”), and jumped down. I sighed, regretfully, turned over the pillow, and was just wondering if maybe I should get up when — Belle returned. With Trooper.

Belle went back down to the bottom of the bed and settled on my feet. Trooper stared into my face for a minute, sighed, and threw himself against my chest, tucked his head firmly under my chin, wriggled until he had gotten my hand to rest on his belly, and started to produce the deep, athletic, whole-body rumblings for which he is particularly known.

. . .and I went back to sleep, with no more dreams (that I remember, anyway.)

So, that.

And now to work.

Everybody stay comfy.

Catching up, Sunday Edition

Yesterday, was Trooper’s ninth birthday.  Here he is at Opening Ceremonies, ignoring the camera:

I am remiss in reporting here that I ordered in a steam mop.  Today I used it for the first time, on the ceramic tile in the entryway, the kitchen floor, and the floor of the master bathroom.  I can report that it does the job, and it’s easy.  The whole contraption weighs less than the bucket of water I needed to tote around to clean the floors with a regular wet mop, so I’m sold.  Will try it a little later on the wood floors, but I don’t foresee any problems.

This particular unit has a core unit that detaches, so you can steam-clean, say, the bath tub!  Really looking forward to trying that out.

We have had deliveries, including the Dr. Who Barbie, Michelle Obama’s biography, Becoming, a case of paper, my new Linux desktop, Steve’s new Linux laptop, and cable-wrap, because Sprite keeps getting tangled in the computer wires on her way to the side of the desk where the adding machine lives, because she loves to sleep with her head on the adding machine keyboard.  Yes, I know, but she’s a cat; we don’t question, we adjust.  Monkeys are good at adjusting.

We have received in the mail our countersigned contracts for our stories in Release the Virgins!  Steve’s story is “Command Decision,” mine is “The Vestals of Midnight.”  The publisher lets us know that …Virgins will be available from the the Usual Suspects in early January.

What else?

We’ve been working.  Accepting the Lance is due on Madame the Editor’s desk at Baen by the end of January, if not sooner, and there are still a number of bridges to be built.  Steve read through the entire manuscript to date yesterday, and today we’re talking Story Stuff.  For those who are curious, here’s what the manuscript looks like.

. . .and I do think that catches us up.

Everybody be well.

That could have been worse, actually

There is a Tall Bookshelf in the bedroom, that overlooks the bed. Historically, this is a favorite cat napping spot, even unto the Old Digs. Often, it’s Scrabble up there, though Belle also enjoys the aspect. Trooper seems to have given it over in favor of the new chest of drawers, where it’s just him and my jewelry box; and Sprite prefers the bed itself.
As may be.
Now, this morning,  I was napping in the bed, with Sprite on my stomach; Trooper on the chest; Belle atop the bookcase. Scrabble came into the room, jumped to the headboard (a wide ledge, also, perhaps, meant to be a bookshelf, but which is in reality the Path to the Tall Bookshelf), and made for the Tall Bookshelf with businesslike little steps, which echoed into the bed, and roused me.
I saw Scrabble about to leap to the top of the Tall Bookshelf. I saw Belle asleep, o! so asleep, on the Tall Bookshelf, and I said to Scrabble — “Don’t do it!”
She’s a cat. Did she listen to me?
She makes her jump, I hold my breath, anticipating Screams of Outrage, and cat bodies tumbling from on high.
And Scrabble lands — on top of Belle, there being no other place TO land.
Belle wakes up, blinking. And for a few seconds they just. . .looked. . .at each other, kind of like, Wait! What’re we supposed to do now?
Belle recovered herself first; she opened her mouth, and — made a noise. Not even a hiss, just a kind of loud poof!
This got Scrabble back on script, and she jumped down to the headboard, stomped away, jumped to the floor, and exited the room.
All remaining in the bedroom when back to sleep.

In which we have arrived

So, here we are at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory, having been ably shifted by the efficient and good-natured crew from J. Goodwin Enterprises, who exclaimed over and over again about what a pretty house and yellow!  Yellow looked so nice, and bright (does no one have yellow rooms in Maine?)  The crew having got us out of the old digs and into the new in record time, we were in good time to pick the cats up from their day at the spa.

We got all four carriers into the living room at the same time, and opened the gates so that the cats could emerge together and commence exploring their exciting! new! environs!

Belle and Sprite immediately dove under the sofa.  Trooper made a run for the cellar door, which is in approximately the same location in this house as the last.  Scrabble. . .Scrabble glanced about her, muttered something and proceeded to  take the Grand Tour — over and over again, as if memorizing the Location of Everything  (which is going to keep her busy for a while, as the Location of Everything is in a state so fluid it puts fluids to the blush).

A little later in the evening, Belle joined Scrabble in her walking about (this house is in the shape of a lopsided U, with Steve’s office at the upper end of the tall arm, and my office at the upper end of the shorter arm, so there’s plenty of hallway to cover, not to mention the rooms themselves).

Later in the evening, as we were sharing our first glass of wine in the New Cat Farm and Confusion Factory, Princess Jasmine Sprite joined us and mounted the Cat Castle, from whence she frowningly surveyed her new domain.

Trooper did not join us.  A short trip down to the basement discovered him under the stair, which didn’t seem alarming, so we left him to it, and retired.

He and Belle both joined us in bed sometime during the night, and Scrabble checked in a couple times.  Sprite was not in evidence.  This morning, we found out why.

Short form is that she had found an ingress from the Goblin Kingdom in! our! basement!  Behind! the! chimney! And! the! water! heater! And. . .AND?

She’d gotten stuck.

Steve and I (by which I of course mean Steve) took down a plywood wall in the new house today instead of unpacking, and then we gave the valiant princess a bath to get (some) of the ashes out of her fur.  She is now resting in what has become known as The Boy’s Bathroom, and we hope she’ll be feeling more the thing tomorrow.

In the meantime, we placed a call to our former neighbor, a contractor, and he will be walling off the road to the Goblin Kingdom, and also the chimney and the water heater.  A paw-proof door will be involved.

Promoting home improvements already.  What workers these cats are!

Mother told me, yes, she told me, I’d meet girls like you

So, of course Monday was Belle’s birthday.  Her eighth birthday, so you see that she is, indeed, a Cat of Substance.  Festivities were scheduled, and everyone made merry, but not too merry, as it would have been a terrible thing indeed to wake the Birthday Girl.

The new remote starter has been installed in the car, and has already been useful, so that.

And!  Steve and I have discovered that Fifth of Five is rather more broken than we had thought, which would be why it just lies there, like a unrisen lump of dough, no matter how much we poke at it.  And this means that — we need to start over.  This is not a step that we take lightly, and it’s certainly not the news I wanted to take to Madame, but sometimes, there are no fixes.  So, we’re taking a small breather, and wading in again.

In other news, Maine is melting.  It was 60 degrees today, on February 21, and the streets ran with mud.  Tomorrow, it will be cooler, and again on Friday, with the difference being that Friday, it will rain.

I think winter may be over.

Here’s a photo from Belle’s Birthday Festivities:

Today’s blog post title brought to you by Cheap Trick, “Surrender.”  Here’s your link.


Oh, I’m in love with the janitor’s boy; and the janitor’s boy loves me

So, it’s been an exciting couple of days here at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory.

Yesterday, of course, was Sprite’s visit to the vet; always an energizing time.  Sprite had previously been able to call in enough bad weather to twice call for a cancellation of this annual event, but yesterday, her luck ran out.  She was outfitted in her harness and glittery leash, and her ladybug-print bib and off we went.  After a first, obligatory shout-out to the neighborhood that she was being kidnapped, and a few energetic curses as we started up, she settled down on my lap, and seemed to resign herself to her fate.  Steve had turned on the classic rock station — Sprite being partial to classic rock — and that seemed to soothe her somewhat.

The vet pronounced her in good health, and good fur, delivered the required shots and home we came, where Sprite retired to the so-called “medium dog bed” under Steve’s desk for a long and restorative nap.

This morning, she’s still a little subdued, and, after a mouthful of breakfast, has again retired under Steve’s desk for another nap.

I did get together the paperwork, and mailed my check and registration form to the National Carousel Association’s annual convention.  I also tried to call the convention hotel to reserve a room, the information in the packet being that rooms are limited and go fast — well, there was no try about it — I did call, as instructed.  Predictably, all operators were busy, and I spent about eight minutes on hold, listening to the robot telling me that I really could do all necessary business on the website or through the Marriott app.  I held on, though, and finally got a click, and the tail end of an answering machine message which stated that it could not accept any more messages — whereupon, the call was disconnected.

Um, yeah.

So, I’ll try to call again today, though the Main Adventure on today’s schedule is for me to go down to Charlie’s Subaru and have them install a remote starter in the Forester.  This operation will take approximately 2 hours, so I guess I’ll have the courtesy van take me over to Barnes and Noble, which is far more entertaining than Charlie’s waiting room.

What else?  I’m sure there was — Oh.  There are two additional events in motion at the moment, which created much excitement for Steve and me. But!

I can’t talk about them yet.

Oh, but I can tell you that the Dyson — remember the Dyson? that had to be sent away via UPS for repair last Friday? — the Dyson, it says here, has been repaired and will be home today!

And if that isn’t exciting, I don’t know what is.

Everybody have a good day.

Today’s blog post title brought to you by Nathalia Crane, “The Janitor’s Boy.”  Here’s a link.  Oh, and here’s another — from Natalie Merchant.

Today’s the big day

Today, December 15, is the eighth birthday of Kelimcoons Sooper Trooper. We usually call him Trooper, but for his birthday, he gets the Whole Formal, at least once.  Festivities are planned throughout the day.  The sun has obligingly come out, and is puddling nicely in the napping spots.  We also have a Flying Mouse Competition planned for later in the day, and a grooming session.  We will also have Jazz on Pandora.  Trooper is partial to Jazz.

Today, December 15, is also the day that “Block Party” (collaborative effort number 82 by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller) will be published to Baen.com, around noonish US Eastern Time.

We’ll obviously be very busy here with the Natal Day Festivities, so feel free to sing out when you see the story come up.

Here’s a picture of the Birthday Cat, wondering what all the fuss is about.